January 21, 2016 – Gunmen armed with grenades and Kalashnikovs stormed a university in northwest Pakistan yesterday leaving at least 21 dead, in an attack with all the same hallmarks of a 2014 massacre at a nearby Peshawar school.
Security forces killed all four attackers in an assault claimed by a Pakistani Taliban faction but branded “un-Islamic” by the umbrella group’s leadership, who vowed to hunt down those responsible.
Security forces said the young attackers had hidden in fields surrounding the Bacha Khan university in the northwestern town of Charsadda, taking advantage of fog that severely restricted visibility to enter the premises unnoticed.
A university security guard said they had scaled a wall to enter the campus, apparently killing a caretaker in a school guesthouse before moving on to the boys’ hostel.
Police, soldiers and special forces swarmed the establishment from the ground and the air to shut down the assault, which also left 30 injured.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared a national day of mourning today and directed the country’s security agencies to hunt those responsible for the attack, his office said.
Yesterday’s attack spurred widespread outrage across Pakistan, with a candlelight vigil for the victims held in the southwestern city of Quetta and dozens of people protesting in the port mega-city of Karachi.
Pir Shahab, superintendent of investigations in Charsadda, said the 21 dead included a chemistry lecturer who was later revealed to have died trying to shield his pupils, two gardeners, one caretaker, and 17 students. The four attackers killed by security forces were not included in the toll, he said.
Pakistan army spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa told reporters in Peshawar that 18 students and two staff members had been killed, putting the number of deaths at 20.
A reporter saw pools of blood and overturned furniture at a the male students’ hostel, where security forces had earlier cornered the four gunmen. Television images earlier showed female students running for their lives and witnesses reported at least two explosions.